The first night was over. Relieved as I was, there were many more nights ahead like it. I went back to my flat, where my new roommate waited for me. He had only mildly destroyed the place looking for food. I would have to make sure Ebhot had enough to entertain him over the following weeks. The show would be traveling for the next month. Maybe Clio could come over and keep him company?
In the morning, I headed out on a private jet. I was meeting the ladies in Cannes, France, where the dates would start. I thought about flipping a coin to see who would get the first alone date with me. It’s not like any of this was actually going to work. But the producers had other ideas in mind. They provided me with files on all the bachelorettes that survived the first Charming Ceremony. A picture, a little write up from their audition tapes, and their bios. After some minor consideration, I chose Ashley. She and I would go to the famous Cannes Film Festival.
I tried not to be in an abhorrent mood as I pulled up to the luxury hotel in a silver Maserati Gran Turismo for our date. All the ladies had converged in the lobby to get a glimpse of how Ashley would be whisked away, no doubt. She wore a white sundress with strappy sandals. Her brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail, with loose tendrils flowing around the frame of her face. She was grinning from ear to ear, and I returned her smile as I exited the car to greet her. She ran to me, throwing her arms around my neck, kissing me gently on the cheek. Her actions took me by surprise, I had pegged her for the quiet, innocent type. That was part of the reason I had picked her for this date.
“Good afternoon.” I pulled away from her, trying not to be so stiff. “You look lovely.”
“Thank you! I’m so excited.”
“Are you ready to bump elbows with Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio?”
Her jaw dropped. “Really?”
I opened the door to the sports car. “There’s one way to find out.”
She squealed, jumping into the car. I closed the door behind her and waved goodbye to the ladies through the window, flashing some godly charm. She oooed and awed at the scenery as we drove down the coast. Apparently, she had never been this far away from home. Her innocence was refreshing. She talked my ear off, telling me about her family and first dates that she had been on that went terribly wrong. For a mortal, she wasn’t that annoying.
Once we arrived at Palais des Festivals, Ashley linked her arm in mine, and we walked the red carpet. If she was awestruck, she hid it well. We mingled for a while, sipping on wine before heading across the street to the open-air cinema on Mace beach. As much as I hated to admit it, I was enjoying myself. It was nice not having the added drama of family politics. The camera crew was around somewhere, but to be honest, I hardly noticed them. After the movie finished, we headed to a restaurant for a private dinner.
Ashley had a quirky laugh; she would snort at the end of each laugh, then try to cover it up by placing her hand over her mouth. Not many people felt comfortable enough around me to laugh, and I admit to finding it refreshing. Usually, the whole darkness and shadows put a damper on people’s attitudes towards me. I mean, I’m not all doom and gloom. When our evening ended, I dropped Ashley off and headed back to my private villa down the street.
Morning came too soon. A producer came knocking on my door and gave me the agenda for the day. There would be a group date followed by an evening cocktail party.
I rode over in a deluxe tour bus to pick up the eight girls joining me on a hiking date in the Massif de l’Esterel, a coastal mountain range along the Mediterranean. The twins, Harley and Emma, grabbed me and gave me a joint hug before the other girls could sink their claws into me. After reading the files over, I finally remembered Brunette number two’s name was actually Lexi. The producers of the show drilled it into me that it was not appropriate to call someone, Hey you.
Lexi was a student studying abroad in Spain, and she enjoyed long walks on the beach No really, she actually listed that as an interest. I’m not sure how dry the pool of contestants was when they picked the women for the show, but there had to be some real losers for Lexi to get picked.
Jamie and Demi seemed to get along great and weren’t your typical mortal girls who fought over a man. As the bus drove down the coastline towards the mountains, they entertained us with some crazy dancing and wild antics. Demi was a free spirit. Her long blonde hair swayed back and forth as she swayed to the music. Hannah was your typical southern bell and politely sat looking out the window, watching the scenery.
That only left the two girls with the horrible last names, Gigi Hades and Corrine Olympiopopis. Surprisingly, they could have been twins had they come from the same part of the world. Gigi was Italian born, and Corrine, while she had the Greek name, was actually from the USA. Both spoiled rotten by their daddies and clearly on the show looking for their new sugar daddy. Corrine couldn’t stop talking about her designer purses, her designer shoes, her car. Everything was an object to her, including me. Nothing had any meaning in her life. She had never been given any responsibilities and even employed a nanny. Not for a child. No, it was for her. I couldn’t see how anyone could have a relationship with her when she was still suckling at the tit.
We got to the top of the hiking trail and started suiting up. It was my surprise to the girls. We were going to rappel down the side of a cliff. Corrine and Gigi were complaining quietly, but I could still hear them. The other girls were game for anything I threw at them. Rex and the producers were already there, waiting with another camera crew. The camera crew that had driven up with us was now heading to the bottom of the trail to get a different angle. I decided to suit up and help Hannah with her ropes and hooks. She was the first to go down and made it look easy. Demi and Jamie followed, giggling the whole way down.
I looked over to Corrine and Gigi, who were struggling with their ropes. I was going to go help, but Rex waved me off. “I’ve got them, go on ahead with Harley.”
Harley and I rappelled down together; she was a little on the scared side. I suspected this to be the drama the producers wanted for the show. We had Go-Pros atop of our helmets, recording our whole conversation, and she explained to me she had always had a fear of heights. They probably figured the heightened stress would bring us closer together. I tried distracting her by making a few jokes, hoping she would forget what was beneath us.
I looked above and could see that Gigi and Lexi were on their way down. Figures Corrine would be the last one. She would probably have to be driven down by the camera crew. We were at the base of the trail where we would start the hike, waiting on Corrine who was still at the top. We couldn’t hear what was happening, but it looked like she was seriously troubled about coming down. Rex was talking to her off camera, I assume he was doing his hostly duties. She was probably playing up the drama for the camera crew. Maybe she thought it would get her some alone time at the cocktail party that would follow later tonight. Like I would reward her with my presence for her babyish behavior. The other girls had already unfastened their ropes and removed their helmets. The majority of them were staring up with me, and they started to cheer her on. I was not about to feed into her desperate call for attention.
I turned and looked at a producer off camera. “Should we wait for her? What’s going on up there?”
No sooner were the words out of my mouth did we see Corrine rappelling down the cliff, except she was coming remarkably fast. Something was wrong. She was screaming as she was falling, and it was falling. I glanced at the crew and the looks of horror on their faces. They yelled at me to do something, to save her. Like just because I was a god, I had some magical power that could stop her from falling to her death. Oh wait, right. I did. I had wings. But before I could give it another thought, Corrine was on the ground in front of us. The girls’ screaming and crying was endless. Poor Corrine was splattered on the rock like bird shit that fell from a five-story apartment building.
I’m not going to lie. It was a mess. The camera crews and producers scrambled everywhere. It was pure chaos. The girls were whisked away to the tour bus that appeared at the foot of the trail as if from nowhere. I was told they were being taken back to the hotel. Filming had stopped, and the entire show was now an uncertainty. I could hear the producers frantically trying to get ahold of Rex, who had disappeared moments before Corrine had fallen. There were a billion questions running through my head, none of which were going to be answered anytime soon. A town car showed up, and it was my turn to make an exit.
Even after a million or so years on this earth, it was never easy witnessing death. I half expected Thanatos to show up. So, when the knock on my door came a few hours later, I was surprised that it was anyone but him. Chuck, the main producer, explained that filming would resume and that the cocktail party was still forging ahead. And I quote: “While the day’s events were disturbing, it was a tragic accident that could be edited out.” End quote. I couldn’t help it when my jaw dropped.
An hour later, I was dressed in a wine-coloured Calvin Klein suit and joining the girls at a restaurant that opened up to the beach. I wasn’t sure what kind of mood the ladies would be in. They had been through something super traumatic. Yet when I met the girls, everyone seemed as if the day’s events hadn’t happened the way I remembered. Not a single woman looked devastated or disturbed.
Jamie was in a sparkly, strappy dress, full of smiles, and was the first to grab me. We exited before the hor’dorves were served, heading to the beach for a walk. We discussed the latest in movies and music, and all things mortal. If this is how mortals dated these days, it was no wonder so many relationships ended in divorce. Demi joined us halfway through the walk. Instead of asking for alone time with me, the two girls started chatting and dancing on the beach. I sat and watched with unenthused interest. Hannah came over and pulled me back into the restaurant, at least we had a slightly more interesting conversation. All this effort for love, and no one even knew if it was going to work. I certainly wasn’t optimistic. Hannah and I were mid-conversation when everything stopped. The noises from the kitchen, conversations between the other ladies, even the crew went quiet. I wasn’t sure what happened, but Hannah’s eyes bulged out of her head at something over my shoulder. What could have possibly caused this kind of disturbance? I turned to see Athena standing in the middle of the restaurant, dressed head to toe in gold and glitter.
“I guess I’m late to the party?” She smiled mischievously.
Athena’s entrance the night before threw me and everyone for a loop. It was definitely unexpected, but maybe not as unwanted as I would have thought. Tonight, though, I was being forced into the next one-on-one date with the producer’s choice, Amy. I dreaded having to spend time with someone I couldn’t look at without being reminded of Atë. Thankfully, half the date I wouldn’t actually have to interact closely with her. I had Amy meet me on the rooftop of the penthouse where a private helicopter waited. Over the years, I had learned to do many things. One of them was becoming a pilot. Amy looked terrified.
“Are you scared to fly?” I looked at her in surprise.
“No-no, I can fly. It’s just…who’s flying it?” She looked at me, stunned.
“I am.” I flashed a toothy smile.
We climbed in and I reached over her, making sure all the buckles were clipped in. Just a quick flight over to Barzio, Italy. As we flew, she rested her hand nervously on my lap, squeezing my thigh. France disappeared beneath us, and the land of high-end fashion, pasta, and world-famous structures made its way into view. Maybe it was her quiet confidence or the fact that she didn’t seem to have a care in the world while sitting next to the God of Darkness, but she seemed to light up just being in my presence.
“Where are you taking us?” Amy eyed the Colosseum as we flew over.
“Barzio.” I looked at her and she was radiant in her summer dress with her hair loosely draped over her shoulder. Atë popped into my head and I had to look away. I grimaced at the familiar pang that hit me in the stomach whenever I thought of her.
“Yes. I have a quick gig at the Nameless festival. I thought you might like to come watch me in action?”
I pulled the helicopter higher into the air and circled until the festival came into view. A huge crowd had gathered, and we could hear the loud beats coming from the stage. We were going to land right behind the stage and make a fast entrance.
A giggle came from the other side of the small helicopter. “Are you for real?”
I dared to look over. Her blue eyes danced with excitement. I didn’t speak. Instead, I landed the helicopter and jumped out, running around to help her down. The material of her dress slid beneath my hands, sending tingles up my arms. The blades were still slowing, so I gently guided her with one hand on the small of her back while the other protected her mortal head from being sliced clean off.
We ran up the stairs behind the stage, and the crowd and music grew louder, until I had to yell to be heard. “Just stand here.” I directed her to a spot backstage where she could see the crowd and myself, but wouldn’t be seen. The camera crew got into place as I skipped onto the stage, giving one quick glance back at Amy. She was still grinning from ear to ear and already dancing. I took my spot behind the mixing board and looked out over the large crowd, hundreds of sweaty mortals bouncing up and down to the pulsating music. It felt different being on stage this time, I wasn’t sure exactly why. Something felt final about everything, like this could be the last time I performed.
It was unnerving knowing that I would be moving on with the next step in my immortal life, even if it would only last one mortal lifetime. When I closed my eyes and listened to the crowd, chanting and singing, I could almost block it out. Not the crowd, of course, but the undeniable pain that was eating me alive. The pain I had been drowning in for weeks, ever since hearing those fateful words. The truth is this. Us? There is no us. Atë’s voice punished me. I squeezed my eyes tight and turned the volume up to the point the speakers were crackling in my ears. I let the music take over my body while I tried desperately to remove her from my head once and for all. I never cared for you.
When the music dropped, the crowd in front screamed for more. I looked backstage to see Amy beaming at me. She may be a cheap knock off, but she looked so happy. I owed it to her. I owed it to Atë. I owed it to myself to make the past the past. If I had learned anything last Christmas, it was to know when I wasn’t wanted. It was time to stop beating a dead horse. I thanked the crowd and disappeared from the stage. Grabbing Amy’s hand, we ran back to the helicopter with the electricity from the audience still thrumming through my body. The wind had picked up, and the sun was setting.
“That was amazing!” Amy’s words almost got lost in the wind, but not for my immortal ears.
I let the moment take me and pulled her into my arms, kissing her gently. “Shall we go to dinner?
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